Pittsburgh Pirates Prospect Depth Chart: Starting Pitching

2021 SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game
2021 SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game / Dustin Bradford/GettyImages
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Mid-Tier Prospects

Kyle Nicolas probably has the highest ceiling in this tier, though his floor bumps him down. Last year, he had a 3.97 ERA, 4.30 FIP, and 1.30 WHIP. He had a good 25.9% strikeout rate in 90.2 innings with a solid 0.89 HR/9. The downside is he had a mediocre 12.1% walk rate. Nicolas throws a mid-90s fastball, but he can ramp up the heat when he needs to. On top of that, his slider is plus-plus. His curveball projects to be about average, but he has a changeup that’s, at best, a work in progress. Along with questionable command, there’s been talk about whether or not he’ll stick as a starting pitcher because of his lack of a great third pitch. But he does have the ceiling to become a quality starting pitcher.

Thomas Harrington was the Pirates’ competitive balance pick in this past draft and brings a high-floor/low-ceiling type arm to the system. Harrington had a great final season at Cambell last year, working to a 2.53 ERA, .94 WHIP, and 6.2 K:BB ratio. Harrington allowed just a single home run. He also had a 30% strikeout rate and a 4.9% walk rate. Harrington typically works in the 90-94 MPH range but tops out at 96 MPH. His changeup is his best pitch, a mid-80s offering with tumble-like action that gets swings and misses. Harrington works with two breaking balls, that is a slider and a curveball. With excellent command, there’s a lot to like about Harrington.

Po-Yu Chen had an inconsistent 2022 but has shown the talent to become a decent future starting pitcher. The Taiwanese right-hander had a 4.58 ERA, but a solid 3.76 FIP and 1.26 WHIP. Chen’s peripherals included a 24.5% strikeout rate, an 8.6% walk rate, and 0.73 HR/9. Chen sits in the 90-93 MPH range but throws an average curveball, and elite splitter. Chen displayed quality command over all of his offerings as well.

Carmen Mlodzinski also had an inconsistent 2022, but did show flashes of brilliance. The right-hander had a 4.78 ERA and 1.41 WHIP, but 3.77 FIP. Mlodzisnki struck out 24.1% of opponents faced with an 8.7% walk rate. He also had a .85 HR/9. Mlodzinski did have a .344 batting average on balls in play, and did have some solid months during the year.

After the Pirates selected Thomas Harrington, they picked-up Hunter Barco. Despite undergoing Tommy John surgery, he will be an arm to watch in the near future. Barco ended his career at the University of Florida on a positive note. In 50.2 innings, Barco had a 2.50 ERA, .95 WHIP, and 6.27 K:BB ratio. Although Barco allowed six home runs, he also had a 5.5% walk rate and 34.4% K-rate. Barco sits around 92-93 MPH, but throws a wicked slider. He also throws an above average change-up. His cross-fire delivery also adds some deception.